By Billy Graham | First Published: May 21, 2015
Many non-Christians have viewed the Christian life as being a set of rules, taboos, vetoes and prohibitions. This is a lie of the devil. Suppose someone should offer me a plateful of crumbs after I had eaten a T-bone steak. I would say, “No, thank you, I am already satisfied.” Christian, that is the secret—you can be so filled with the things of Christ, so enamored with the things of God that you do not have time for the sinful pleasures of this world.
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Worldliness has been vastly misunderstood. It needs clarification because it is one of the greatest difficulties that meets a young and inexperienced Christian.
The great English preacher J. H. Jowett said: “Worldliness is a spirit, a temperament, an attitude of the soul. It is life without high callings, life devoid of lofty ideals. It is a gaze always horizontal and never vertical.” The word world means the cosmos, this world system. The world system has a tendency to lead us into sin, evil company, pleasures, fashions, opinions and aims of the world.
Use or Overuse
Abuse literally means “extreme use.” In many instances, overuse of lawful things becomes sin. Pleasure is lawful in use, but unlawful in its overuse. Ambition is an essential part of true character, but it must be fixed on lawful objects and exercised in proper proportion. Our daily occupation, reading, dress, friendship and other similar phases of life are all legitimate and necessary, but they can easily become illegitimate and harmful. Thought about the necessities of life is absolutely essential, but this can easily degenerate into anxiety. The making of money is necessary for daily living, but money-making is apt to degenerate into money-loving. Then the deceitfulness of riches enters into and spoils our spiritual life.
Worldliness permeates the whole of life and human society, and it must be guarded against constantly and strenuously.
God does not take the Christian out of the world, but He wants His followers to be kept from the love and infatuation of the world’s interests and desires, for these temporal things are going to perish. Jesus prayed, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
Paul the apostle told how the god of this world is blinding men’s minds so that they cannot see the glorious Gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
John wrote: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
The World is Passing
When all is said and done, the world in which we live is but a passing show.
A person has all his hopes and dreams in this life, but then the moment comes when all falls and fails. There is nothing but an inward ache and a shriveled soul. The man who strives for fame dies inwardly when his fame is forgotten. The person who lives for pleasure dies inwardly when his capacity for pleasure is gone. The man who lives for money dies inwardly when his money vanishes. Yes, the Bible says that there is pleasure in sin—but only for a season. It is soon gone.
The main themes of entertainment center largely in selfishness, materialism, revenge, greedy manipulation and worldliness in all its phases—things with no spiritual,
permanent value. They will all pass away quickly. The ideals and purposes of the Christian must reach out beyond the present moment and pierce eternity. Man’s spiritual needs, his sacrifice and love for others, his willingness to look beyond rewards of the moment to find genuine happiness—these are almost foreign to the presentations of theater, radio or television.
In addition to the anti-Christian ideals set forth in most of the entertainment world, there is a ghastly waste of time and a deadening of the human mind. These media tend to destroy creative thinking; they waste our abilities to do, to create, to be—and most certainly they destroy our spiritual life.
What Are the Answers?
The demand for pleasure and amusement poses a problem to those who desire to live a life pleasing to Jesus Christ. Many young people have written me asking, “Is this wrong, or is that wrong? Is this sinful, or is that sinful?”
The question of worldliness has faced every generation in Christian history. The present-day demand is for more and more entertainment—people want something thrilling and exciting. Without these, life seems slow and dull. Prohibitions are not popular. People say, “There is no harm in it, so long as you don’t go too far. You find yourself with no friends if you are too narrow-minded.”
My suggestion to all who have doubts concerning a particular dress, television program, book or companions, is to ask: “What would Christ have me to do? Can I ask His blessing upon this particular thing for me? What would Christ think about my amusements, recreation, books, companions and television programs?”
We cannot compromise or bargain here. There must be an out-and-out stand for Christ. It does not mean that in society we are snobs or have a superiority complex, lest we be in danger of spiritual pride. But today there are so many professing Christians who are walking hand in hand with this present evil world that you cannot tell the difference between the Christian and the sinner. This should never be.
Christians should stand out like sparkling diamonds against a rough and dark background. We should be more wholesome than anyone else. We should be poised, cultured, courteous, gracious—but firm in the things that we do and don’t do. We should laugh and be radiant, but we should refuse sinful pleasure.
A distinctive mark of our times is that the line between the church and the world is often difficult to discern. In many religious circles there is a friendly alliance between the church and the world. The Scripture teaches that certainly the church is to go to the world and live in the world, but without partaking of its evil deeds.
This is an age of compromise, expediency and toleration. Yet we read in the Word of God such statements as: “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean” (2 Corinthians 6:17). So we face a dilemma—which voice will we listen to? Which appeal will we yield to?
The non-Christian does not face this dilemma. He has no sense of the debt he owes to Christ for dying on the cross for his sins. He does not have any heart-longing and desire in his soul for God and heaven. As for this life, all his desires, ambitions and interests are centered on worldly success, prosperity, comforts, possessions and position.
In contrast, the Christian’s priorities are the kingdom of Christ. The two scales of value are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. The one is swayed by public opinion and natural desires; the other is dominated by scriptural standards and Christian ideals.
The Bible Says
In seeking to know the will of God regarding perplexities and problems, the Christian must come to the Bible for the solution of his problem, with an open mind and a willing heart.
Over and over again the Bible warns against worldliness.
To the Romans Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).
To the Corinthians he wrote: “Come out … and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
To the Galatians he wrote that Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4).
To the Ephesians Paul said we wrestle “against the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12).
To the Thessalonian believers he wrote: “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
To Titus Paul said: “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
James says: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Peter exhorted his readers: “not conforming yourselves to the former lusts” (1 Peter 1:14).
John says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).
In the World But Not of It
These Scriptures clearly teach that the Christian is to be in the world, but not of it—separated from it, yet a witness to it—not molded by it, but manifesting Christ to it—not ensnared in it, but exerting an influence for good over it—not compromising with the world, but challenging it—not coming down to its level, but seeking to lift souls up to a higher level.
Show me a Christian who is utterly devoted to Christ, whose sole aim in life is loyalty to Him and zeal for His service, whose burning desire is to do the will of God at any price, and I will show you a person who has solved the problem of worldliness. Selfish aims, ambitions and desires of the flesh are secondary in the acceptance of a higher will—the will of God. The life lived for what this world offers seems futile and empty, tawdry and trivial compared with the utter satisfaction, the glorious joys and lasting pleasures that a person finds in Christ.
God Honors Strength
When you as a Christian do not go to the extremes of others round about you, you may be considered different. But God will honor and bless you as He did Moses, Joseph, Daniel and hundreds of others who dared to be different and stand alone.
I call upon all Christians to stand for Christ. Let’s be wholesome witnesses to the saving grace and keeping power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have never committed and surrendered your will to Christ, renounce your sins, commit your heart and life to Christ, and He will bring peace, joy and rest to your heart and give you a power and strength over temptation such as you have never had before. ©1960 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.